Complex feelings over a not-so-complex email

“Hi Christine! It’s been a long time since we’ve chatted and caught up. I’m sorry I haven’t reached out to you. Now that tax season is over, I wanted to see if you’d like to get together for lunch sometime. Are you available in the next few weeks for a lunch date? Look forward to hearing from you!”

I recently received the above email from a friend. Not a best friend. But someone I’d once considered a good friend nonetheless. We attended the same university, majored in similar things, graduated together, attended each other’s bachelorette parties, showers, weddings, etc. Since college we’ve stayed in regular communication, moving to the same town, entering related professions, periodically meeting for lunch, and planning fun weekend get-togethers with other mutual friends from our college years.

Until Matthew died…

I mostly haven’t heard from her. I think she replied to the text I sent informing her of his death, maybe sent a follow up text a couple of weeks later, maybe signed her name to a group gift… Otherwise, crickets. And I haven’t seen her either. Not once in ten months.

This isn’t to say the things she did weren’t appreciated. They were, and they still are. This also isn’t to say that she’s a bad person, or that had the roles been reversed I would have done much better. She’s a good person, and I only *think* I would have done better – at the very least visited, offered a hug, listened to her talk about her child, texted a few times to say “thinking of you.” Though I acknowledge that it’s difficult to be certain of anything. Because the roles aren’t reversed…

So, alas, here we sit. It’s been almost a year, and I receive this email asking, “Do you want to go to lunch?”

And I think my answer is, “Actually, I’d prefer that we not.”

It isn’t that I’m overtly angry with her or that I hate her or that I didn’t value our friendship or that some tiny piece of me doesn’t want to see her. At worst, I consider her to be a nice person, yet a major avoider, who, for whatever reason, couldn’t be there for me in the way that I needed. And, while I admit I find it curious that she drove across the state to see a mutual friend’s newborn shortly after Matthew died, when, in the meantime, I’ve yet to see her at all, I’m also not mortally wounded by her behavior. I’m fortunate others have been there for me. I’m still here. I’ve survived without her.

I’m slightly put off by her email. Though it says, “I’m sorry I haven’t reached out to you,” it doesn’t expressly ask, “How are you?” or say, “I’ve been thinking of you,” or, “You’ve been on my heart.” Nor does it mention Matthew’s name. In a way, it seems to be yet another (at least partial) act of avoidance. (Though I suppose she could have just not emailed me at all.) And, also, whether or not it’s her intention it leaves me thinking, “Oh, okay, so now that you think the storm has blown over you feel comfortable contacting me?” which is a pretty shitty thought.

But probably none of these things are bad enough to warrant writing her off forever. As Mark even pointed out, I could simply just show up and talk about Matthew, no matter how uncomfortable it makes her or attempt to play the how-long-will-it-take-for-you-to-acknowledge-what-happened game. It really wouldn’t be that hard…

But here’s the deal… A big part of me doesn’t want to see her. Perhaps ever again. And it’s only partially because I feel she’s handled things relatively poorly.

I think another part of it is that I don’t feel as though she’s even emailing the same person – the person she thinks she’s emailing. Sure, the email appeared in my inbox. It says, “Hi Christine!” I recognize its sender. But her intended recipient is someone else entirely – the Christine who existed pre-July 13, 2015. And although I know this to be true, she doesn’t appear to.

On July 13 this other Christine split from me. We’re now worlds apart. We’ll never be one in the same again. I’m different now. So different. Not better. Not worse. Just different.

This isn’t to say that I’ve maintained none of my pre-existing relationships. Many of them still exist. The friends with whom I’ve been in contact, I think, see glimpses of the “old” me – I can enjoy a conversation on a lighter topic, and I can laugh. But this is likely only because they’ve been along for the journey in its entirety – the complete devastation, the tears, the ongoing grief, the thoughtful conversations, the sharing of Matthew and his memory, the stress, the anxiety, some healing, the rainbow pregnancy. They know me and how Matthew, and the aftermath of losing him, has shaped me into who I am today. And new friends will come to know me for who I am currently, which includes Matthew.

But old friends like this one who’ve simply vanished and are now reappearing? I’m just not sure. I’m not sure she knows who she’s even reaching out to. She knows nothing of my devastation, Matthew’s meaning to me, my grief journey, my work struggles, this blog, Jay… Nothing. And I’m honestly not sure I have the energy to catch her up on it. And, if I never catch her up on it, although I don’t want my tragedy to define me, it will indeed forever be a defining moment in my life, and I’m not sure I can continue a genuine friendship with my knowledge that she likely understands nothing of the weight of what I’ve been through, swooping in when she perceives life to be simpler and happier for me.

I recently heard the lyrics of a song by Danny Gokey, who tragically lost his first wife to cancer a few years ago, right before his stint on American Idol. (It now appears he’s a successful contemporary Christian artist.)

You’re shattered
Like you’ve never been before
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you’re never gonna get back
To the you that used to be

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again

And I think some of these lyrics explain my feelings… Especially, “Yesterdays a closing door. You don’t live there anymore. Say goodbye to where you’ve been. Tell your heart to beat again.”

And I don’t take this to mean that Matthew’s my yesterday and that I need to forget him. This would be impossible. He’s part of my past, my present, and my future. My heart beats the sound of his name. Forever.

But what I do take it to mean is this… It’s a continued struggle, but sometimes, just sometimes, it feels like my heart might actually be beating, in a large part because of those who’ve been with me through everything. And she hasn’t. She’s part of my yesterday. And the door to life as I knew it has closed. The sun has set. She’s reaching out to a Christine I know is gone. And I just don’t know if I can go back to visit her when I’m fighting so damn hard to tell my heart to beat again. Maybe someday, but not right now.

So I think I’m going to find a way to avoid this lunch in the best, most non-hurtful way possible. Like say, “Hi – In the nicest way possible, I’d really rather not see you.” Just kidding. I’m not yet sure how I’ll do it, but I’ll find a way and hopefully update about it here in the future.

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24 thoughts on “Complex feelings over a not-so-complex email

  1. I feel like that, I’m not the same person and even with my Husband I feel disappointed and hurt by the lack of support. I have had so much support from others that have really kept me going. You truly find out who cares when you lose such a major part of your heart xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s amazing (and devastating) how much our traumatic losses change us in such a short amount of time… I’m sorry you can so strongly relate to feeling unsupported in several areas of your life… And yes, you find out who cares/doesn’t… And support/lack thereof often come from places you don’t expect. Sending love and light to you, sweet mama. Thinking of you and Max. xoxo

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  2. I have a few friends who have avoided me (one of them is currently pregnant) and I just want to yell at them “You can’t catch stillbirth!”…
    I completely understand your reservation at seeing her. why now? Why didn’t she make more of an effort when she knew you would be hurting? 👎🏻👋🏻

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so sorry you’ve had friends avoid you… I too have had people imply that they’re “scared of me” because of what happened, like they could catch infant death… It’s so freaking strange to me…

      Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to be seeing her… Yes, why now? Maybe I’ll see her again someday but not anytime soon… Just have to figure out how to reply to her email…

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      1. I suppose you could simply say you’re not ready to see her? I’m looking forward to the day I have another rainbow baby (Freddie was our rainbow) and can meet up with all the friends with children who I don’t feel I can stomach seeing at the moment. I just feel like my life is on pause at the moment.. waiting and waiting… good luck with your friend! x

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  3. I find I question everything, just like you have. I am waiting for the day I get the same overdue but of somewhat pointless contact, and have to work out how to respond. I’ll look forward to seeing how it pans out. Though, I’m the mood where I’d happily say “thanks but no thanks” with some patronising emoji to just set the tone! Xxx

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    1. Ughhh… I have no idea how to respond yet – I just know I’m not up to seeing her! I’d love to just send “thanks but no thanks,” but I feel compelled to make more of a effort (not even sure why). It seems each of us baby loss mamas will go through this – a person who deserted you suddenly reaches out when he/she perceives life to be “easier.” I think this is common after the six month to one year mark and/or after a rainbow baby is born… It soooo rubs me the wrong way though… I can’t un-know that someone was completely absent in the few months after Matthew died… So everything in life feels complicated now… Even simple emails. Xxx

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  4. I’ve had friendships change too since our loss, some in amazing ways, and some not. A couple people I really expected to be there for me weren’t, I got a card where they only signed their name, didn’t even bother writing a personal message. And if they were to reach out to me now with a similar email to the one you got, I don’t think I would respond. They didn’t put in the effort when I needed them, why should I put in the effort for something like lunch, or even put in the effort to respond to an email?

    I’ve noticed that some people only reach out to me because they are nosy. They want information, something to gossip about, not to offer support. So I’m a little distrustful of people randomly reaching out to me.

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  5. I couldn’t agree more – there are so many people who take the avoidance route. We are all a different version of ourselves after our losses and our friendships take on slightly different versions of their old selves too. I think you should reply by sending her your post, or at least some of it. You haven’t written anything mean, just honest and it explains so well how you feel. If you want this friendship as part of your life then be honest and go for it – and if she is a true friend she will take it on the chin and you can begin to move forward with a new version of your old friendship. Just a thought, I might be wrong but this is what I think I’d do. Sending hugs X

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much! I appreciate your idea. I considered it! I ended up just saying, “Hey thanks for reaching out – I’ve been busy at work and struggling a lot and am not really keen on being super social these days…” I don’t know if I was ready to share my whole blog with her! Maybe someday I will though… xoxo

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  6. Tears streaming as I read this…but I know your heart, sweet friend. I’m thankful to be a part of your journey, wherever it takes you, Mark, Matthew and Jay! I love you and will always support you in whatever way I can. I’m so happy your heart beats a beautiful song called “Matthew”!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes, there was a lot of this for me too. A lot of secondary losses. I found I really had to (have to? But it is easier now) prioritize my own feelings. I would respond often, “I have a hard time being social these days but I appreciate you reaching out.”

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  8. oh shit, I just wrote a really long reply but it didn’t post, and now it’s lost and I can’t write it all again.
    Your post really resonates with me, thank you for writing and sharing this
    (I hope it’s ok for me to respond; i haven’t lost a child but I lost my partner of 12 years last august)

    Short version of my response,
    xx Tam

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    1. Oh no! I’m so sorry that your reply got deleted. I hate it when that happens! It is definitely okay for you to respond. I’m glad that you did, though I’m so sorry this post so closely resonates with you. And most of all, I’m so sorry for your devastating loss of your partner. It is so incredibly heartbreaking and unfair and, I’m sure, 12 years later doesn’t suck any less than the day it happened. So many hugs to you. xoxo

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      1. Thank you so much Christine, I’ll be sure to respond to your posts more often :). We were together for 12 years; she died a little over 10 months ago. It sucks each and every day ❤

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    2. Oh, I’m sorry for misunderstanding your note. Apparently, I can’t read very well all of the time! Partner of 12 years, 10 months ago. Not that it changes much… 10 months ago, 12 years ago… A loss this devastating, I think, will always hurt. 10 months in is exactly where I am right now too… In the grand scheme of things, it’s still so very fresh… This week has been rough for me – I think coming upon a year is incredibly surreal and is thus hitting me hard. In the earliest days, I longed to get to this point, and now that I find myself here, it’s easier to breathe, but many days I’m still non-functional – those waves of grief… Thank you again for commenting, and I’m holding you in my heart as we both near one year without our loved ones. ❤

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      1. yes, it’s unbelievable how time goes isn’t it? It all feels so so very fresh still.
        And of course it IS that.

        WE didn’t live in the same country and we would go to visit each other for 2 or 3 weeks at a time every 2,5 months or so.
        Yesterday, may 18th, it was exactly a year ago since I last saw my Lesley, waved her goodbye on the airport.
        It would be another 11 weeks before she died, and we talked on the phone and online every day, but still. This realisation that it’s been a year since she was physically with me…brought me to my knees again yesterday and today.

        rough days and weeks, I think they will be here to stay for a while longer for both of us. The waves of grief, you never know when they will hit.
        But breathing a bit easier every now and then, that is nice. It makes it that bit ‘easier’ to tackle the next wave.

        I’m so glad there are people like you who decide to share their stories and give people like me a place to go to and feel at home in a weird way.

        Sending love to you in your waves of grief and in your easier breaths

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for this…it really resonated with me…I’m only a few weeks into this journey and I find myself parsing out which friends are going to be there for the long run and which friends aren’t.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I too could see these types of things coming early on… It’s so sad – that on top of losing our precious babies we also have secondary losses to contend with… Secondary losses seem inevitable for all of us, but I’m hoping your friends who are there for you, as well as the ones you meet along your way through this, wrap you up in so much support that it lessens the pain inflicted by the ones who fall away. Hugs to you, sweet mama. xoxo

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  10. Oh, have I been here. Whatever you replied, I’m sure it was tactful but also hopefully what you wanted. I definitely took the approach that I didn’t owe anything to anyone. I didn’t have to see people I wasn’t interested in seeing, etc. I lost my best friend over the course of losing my baby and having a rainbow baby (3 days after her first child was born). For me, the loss of my first daughter made me see a lot of truths about people and friendships and support and was really eye-opening.

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  11. Your blog makes me very emotional. You are an artist at describing the slightest details.
    I would love to hear a review at my posts from someone as talented as you are . As I just started out and need feedback and clearer direction❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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